UNC’s only incoming freshman ready to step in

Jul. 22, 2014 @ 09:25 PM

North Carolina incoming freshman Jamie Cherry burnished her reputation as a scorer with a game-high 24 points in the N.C. Coaches Association East-West All-Star game in Greensboro Coliseum on Monday. But she plans to change her mindset when she plays for the Tar Heels this season.

“I’m just trying to be a point guard,” Cherry said. “If it comes to scoring and the (opposing) team plays me like they want me to shoot or whatever, then I’ll have to step up.”

The 2014 North Carolina AP Prep Player of the Year ranks second in state history with 3,210 points, only 15 points shy of the record, and averaged 33.2 points as a senior when she led West Craven (27-2) to the state semifinals.

Cherry said that UNC’s transition offense will create plenty of shot opportunities for her -- though she hopes she’ll make more of them than she did in the East-West game, when Cherry shot 6 of 21 from the field and 5 of 17 from behind the arc. Cherry said it was hard to get in a flow in the East-West game because the coach was trying to get all the all-stars in the game, which took her off the floor.

UNC already has two point guards in senior Latifah Coleman and sophomore Jessica Washington, but the transfer of leading scorer Diamond DeShields should provide an opening for a scorer like Cherry.

“When I found out Diamond was transferring, I mean, it was kind of like, ‘Dag! You were the freshman of the year. Why leave?’” Cherry said. “But she felt like she needed to go, and when I heard that she was leaving, I was just like, OK, that means I have to step up. I’m the only freshman coming in. The team is expecting me to play big minutes, lead them to the win.”

Cherry said she wants to earn the confidence of the UNC coaches so they can trust her to take those shots. The 5-8 Cherry is especially excited to play under assistant coach Ivory Latta, a 5-6 point guard who is still the program’s all-time leading scorer and recently played in the WNBA All-Star Game.

UNC will return every other player on the 2013-14 team that made the Elite Eight for the first time since 2008.

“Diamond is a great player, and her leaving, it opened up more playing time for other players,” Cherry said. “In practice and workouts during the summer, the team has had great chemistry and everybody is getting along, and we’re just sharing the ball and everybody is excited and ready for the season.”